Thanks to my friend Leah, who I met while interning at the Food Network, we were introduced to an amazing Middle Eastern restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Tanoreen. We went for dinner with Leah and her husband Paul, and Claudia (another FN employee) and her husband, Paul. Yes, it’s hard to get to (luckily we got to ride with Leah and Paul in their car), and yes, it looks like just another not-so-special restaurant from the outside, but it is a hidden gem, with food that is magical, delicious… transcendental. Did I mention it’s BYOB, and very affordable.
I won’t go into detail about every dish, but I will comment on my favorites. After every photo I’ve included the description of the dish from the take out menu that I grabbed on the way out (all spellings are theirs, not mine). We started our meal with some small plates to share:
Hummus: pureed chickpeas with sesame paste (tahini), lemon juice, and garlic. Some of the pita that came with the hummus was coated in a delicious mixture of sumac and sesame.
Fatoush: salad composed of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, mint, sumac, olive oil, lemon juice, and toasted wedges of pita. This salad is my favorite Middle Eastern dish. I fell in love with it when we lived in São Paulo and often ate Lebanese food as it is quite common there.
Falafel: vegetarian fried chickpea patties with tahini sauce and salad toppings
Cheese pie (from that night’s specials menu). The cheese was tangy and a bit sour, made from yogurt, I believe. The pie was simply delicious.
Eggplant napoleon: crispy eggplant slices layered with baba ghanouge and topped with tomato and basil salad. I do not like eggplant, I will be the first to admit it, but I tried a bite of this anyway. Let’s just say that if this was the only eggplant I’d ever eaten, I would love eggplant.
Pies: meat, spinach, and feta cheese. My only disappointment of the night was the spinach pie (the triangular one), the spinach was way too sour. I got a second opinion; Leah agreed with my assessment.
After all of the above, we ordered main courses. I was getting full so I kept nibbling on what was on the table, but most people ordered entrees. I didn’t take photos of everyone’s orders (I think people were getting sick of my camera) so I just took one of Dave’s. Shish kabob: marinated lamb cubes, served with salad and Egyptian rice. The rice was tasty, Paul jokingly compared it to Rice-a-Roni as the rice is mixed in with little pieces of noodle. Dave said the lamb, “was well-cooked and yummy. I liked it.”
The parsley-coated aftermath. As you’re eating, the chef-owner, a smiling but somewhat imposing woman, comes around to each table to make sure that everything is alright, and, of course, it is.
Then, we ordered desserts:
Knafeh: house specialty composed of shredded filo dough stuffed with two kinds of cheese and baked, topped with homemade syrup and pistachio nuts.
Harissa: baked semolina cake soaked in syrup and topped with pistachio nuts. That night it was a bit special and had a layer of dates as well.
Sahlab: custard flavored with authentic Middle Eastern sweet spice, topped with pistachio nuts and syrup.
When I first heard that one of our desserts had cheese in it, I was a bit skeptical, but let me say here and now that this dessert was one of the best I’ve had. Ever. The crispy sweetened filo with the soft oozing cheese, all smothered in a sweet syrup was just indescribably good. The semolina cake (my order) was also divine. It was soft and cakey, but also a bit dense thanks to the dates and the syrup, a winner indeed. Don’t take my word for it, go to Tanoreen. Go now.